Blogging in English class

This entry is part 12 of 20 in the series Poetics and technology


Watch at YouTube.

If the writers’ workshop, popular at most colleges, married online technologies, and they had a ninth-grade daughter, it would be Mr. Stephens’s English class.

Thus begins this funky and wonderful video application to Google for some free Chrome OS notebook computers. “Mr. Stephens” is my friend and fellow blogging enthusiast Peter of Slow Reads, who two years ago guest-blogged a post for this series about teaching grammer on Twitter. (He now uses the Twitter-like microblog service for schools, Edmodo, instead.) The video mentions the multi-user blog community he set up using WordPress, inko.us, as well as a plethora of other websites and online applications he’s adapted for high school use.

But just as important as the online tools are the freedom Peter allows his students and the respect he shows them. “To the extent possible, I’d like to run the classroom like a writer’s workshop,” he says.

They are the writers. They make choices. The more I can treat them like writers, the more effective they’re gonna be as writers and the more love they’re gonna have as writers. If they are always told what to write, whom to write to, and what genre to write in, they’re not gonna feel like writers.

To me, blogging is all about exploring this kind of freedom, and I’m glad Peter is able to bring that into the normally restictive environment of a public school classroom. I’ve always admired his willingness to learn new technologies; as the first lines of the video suggest, I think he’s actually ahead of most university writing teachers in this regard. In his blog post about the application to Google, he mentions that he bought and learned how to use iMovie for the sole purpose of making this video — his first. Do watch it.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

3 Comments


  1. I wish we were allowed to do things like this at the middle school level, but we are often prevented for two reasons: privacy/safety issues of students who are only between 11 and 14 years old, and the ability for maturity/introspection of students that age.

    I think it is certainly coming in education – high schools are using ideas like this more and more.

    Reply

    1. It’s easy to imagine wrong ways to implement this kind of approach too, though. Better a traditionalist teacher who knows how to turn the kids on to writing than a technophile lacking in Peter’s evident love of teaching.

      Reply

    2. Dave, thank you for writing this. There are days at school I feel my friends like wind in my sails.

      Donna, a pleasure to meet you. I ask my guys about their middle school language arts teachers the first thing every year, and I always get an earful about these affirming, fun, and life-changing teachers I know I’ll never measure up to.

      As far as technology in schools, I think the push-and-pull slowly gives way to greater acceptance by parents and administrators. I lost battles early on that somehow got won later when I wasn’t looking. (I fought hard to no avail to get the school system to unblock Ning.com, for instance. Two years later, a teacher told me she was using it in the classroom. Now we can even use YouTube at school.)

      Reply

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